The 5 Most Common Behaviour Traits Of An Addict And What You Can Do About It


The behaviour of an addicted person is baffling, frustrating, frightening and sad. The power substances have over the addict is so strong that many people are totally overwhelmed and powerless by it.

Their actions and words are dictated by their need and desire for more drugs and/or alcohol, but those who know and love that person may not be able to understand why they are behaving the way they are or why making permanent changes is so difficult when others who don’t have addictions could make those changes easily.

Without realising that drug and alcohol use is behind the odd, erratic, abusive or criminal behaviours that you’re looking at, the mystery may continue for years, or even decades in some cases!

There are a few people who can be addicted to drugs or alcohol and continue to function “normally” with a job, in society, keeping commitments and responsibilities, be financially secure and with no physical or mental health issues at all. Many addicts start off with those, if not all of these things under control, however as time goes by and their addiction worsens, these stages of control and “normal” functioning tend to slowly slip away as the individual then never has any money and ends up with ever increasing debt, health conditions start to develop as the damage from sustained, chronic substance use takes there toll on their body and commitments tend to be forgotten, excuses made or events like birthdays or wedding anniversary’s are missed completely.

Almost no one can succeed equally in all areas of life. The stress and “cracks in their exterior” will show up somewhere, somehow and often, that’s behind closed doors where addictions are free to roam, unguarded, free to pollute and corrupt the individual to do or say things that they otherwise wouldn’t if they didn’t have an addiction that is constantly knocking on their internal, emotional door!

Keeping it like this, away from prying eyes of loved ones or others, allows addictions to worsen, unchecked, free to roam around and worsen.

Thus, wives, husbands, children, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts or parents may see the worst of his behaviour while co-workers, friends or healthcare professionals may think things are fine for quite a while longer, until their lives start to crumble around them when life simply cannot continue in the state that they find themselves in when their addictions are at their worst and yet, still getting worse as their addictions continue until some form of intervention(s) are applied to make new positive changes in the direction of recovery, abstinence and/or sobriety.

When someone you love or care for is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, the truth is very hard to face. Addicts are masters at denial, lies, excuses and physical/emotional manipulation to achieve their ultimate goal which initially tends to be acquiring money to buy drugs and/or alcohol to change the way that they feel or the way that they perceive their circumstances or situation. They then feel guilty, ashamed, embarrassed or angry at their substance use and so, the only way they know how to cope is with substances, so the cycle to cope with their negative feelings by using or drinking continues.

There is also an element of physical or psychological dependency to the substances that they use too which can explain some of their substance use, however this is only a small part and once they begin to deal with their emotional difficulties with therapies and treatments, the rest tend to slowly fall back in line and recovery becomes possible and more likely to succeed for the long term with a lower risk of lapse/relapse.

You can learn more about lapses and relapses in our previous article on this very topic by clicking here.

You’re not alone in having a hard time dealing with the personality and morality changes of the one you love or care about. This list below is provided to help you separate fact from fantasy when the two often seem so intertwined. Once you know what’s going on, having the knowledge about addictions can help you to identify the warning signs at the earliest possible point, you can make better, more informed decisions and take the right actions to help overcome the huge hurdle that addictions end up becoming!

Addicts will give you any excuse, reason, emotion or action to achieve their immediate goals, but learning to separate the truth from the fictional world the addicts is creating will empower you and allow you to better help them. In a previous article, we looked at what and how addicts will say or do to achieve their immediate aims and what you can do about this. If you are living with an addict, we would highly recommend that you read it. This will help you and them! You can read that article by clicking here.


5 Common Behavioural Traits Of An Addict

1. They Lie

Guy liying on the phone

They have to tell lies to mislead people about where they were, when they were really out buying or using drugs or alcohol, why they couldn’t attend vital commitments because drugs and alcohol became their overriding priority, why they never have any spare money, why they have bruises or strange marks on their arms or why they are sweating and shaking shortly after they wake up. The more they feel they need drugs and alcohol, the more likely they are to feel the need to lie and deceive others.

When you have trusted a person for years and then they begin lying to you, it’s very hard to set that trust aside. Family and good friends can be fooled by a skillful liar for years. But all this time, the person is slowly destroying themselves whilst constantly trying to keep up the appearance that everything is fine and dandy! It often isn’t until absolutely everything is falling apart and their guards start slipping that we begin to understand why they have been acting the way they have for such a long time!

If a person’s behaviour changes markedly and their explanations don’t really add up, you have to hold onto your own common sense, even when they are addiment that everything is fine, that you begin to realise that what you’re being told doesn’t make sense, then there’s probably a very good reason why—you’re being lied to!

Learning to trust an addict once they’ve lied to you numerous times is tough, but possible. We discussed this in a previous article which you can read by clicking here.

You might be able to check some of the stories. Most, you probably can’t. You will have no way of knowing if someone actually siphoned the gas out of his car, causing him to need £20 from you right now. The real tipoff is that these strange things keep happening to them and their excuses always require cash straight away. Gradually, their life descends into chaos, camouflaged by these lies until even those fall apart too.

In a previous article, we looked at the lies and ways addicts justify their using or drinking. This is a really important article to read if you are living with an addict. You can read it by clicking here.


2. They Manipulate Others

Couple hugging looking aside

Unless they are also addicted, the family and close friends of an addicted person really want them to thrive and be happy. They try to encourage good decisions but the addicted person is on a destructive track that can only lead to one of a very select few outcomes, all of which are bad.

The allure of the drugs and alcohol is so powerful, they feel they need the drugs or alcohol to function “normally”, to be able to get through another day, to not get desperately sick from the withdrawal symptoms. So they manipulate those who love them the most.

Substances like opiates, alcohol, methamphetamine, cocaine, synthetics like Spice and even marijuana can change a person who was loving and open with her family into someone who has to manipulate everyone so that they can continue to keep using drugs and alcohol.

With love in their hearts, family and close friends try to convince the addicted person to stop using these deadly substances, to go to rehab, to seek treatment from their local drug and alcohol service, But their answer?

  • “I have it under control”
  • “I can stop anytime I want”
  • “You are just jealous because I can have fun and you can’t”
  • “You never want me to enjoy myself”
  • “It’s your fault I’m this way”
  • “You don’t even try to understand how I feel”
  • “You wouldn’t say that if you loved me”
  • “I only do it occasionally so I’m not that bad”
  • I’m not an addict because I still have all my teeth, I’m not homeless and I don’t wake up feeling ill, like a real addict would”

And many, many more examples of this type, that it would take months to list them all.

Perhaps the most awful type of manipulation occurs between husband or wife, girlfriend or boyfriend. When caught using drugs or abusing alcohol, the addicted person will promise to do better, to try harder, to go to meetings, to start going to church, to get another job, to stop seeing drug dealers or other drug users, will stop going to the pub or buying alcohol from their local shop.

The non-addict loved one or friend really wants to believe the promises that they give, so they let up on the pressure. They let the addict back in the home or backs down from kicking them out or initiating known consequences for their behaviour. As soon as the pressure is off, the addicted person will probably be attentive and loving for a little while, until the next binge of drug or alcohol use. Then all bets are off and it’s back to the beginning again.

An addict may call in the middle of the night, crying and professing love, begging to see the one they love just one more time, but then if they meet, they ask for money just to get some good food and then is gone. The money goes to drugs. It’s all a form of manipulation in one form or another.

Unfortunately, this pattern of manipulation all too often goes on for months or years without there being any change in behaviour. When everything valuable is gone and the children are at risk, the non-addicted family member or friend finally moves away or changes the locks.

The sad truth is that while a person is subservient to their addiction, the promises can’t be believed or relied upon. They are all just more form of manipulation.


3. They Are Very Likely To Be Engaged In Criminal Acts

Stealing money

This isn’t true of every addict, but it is a typical pattern for a person who has been addicted for a considerable amount of time as proven through scientific research and evidence that there may be times when funds aren’t available, yet the addict needs their substance(s) of choice to function so turn to crime to achieve it.

Eventually, their money, and access to more runs out. They have pawned or sold everything of value, even things that aren’t theirs to sell are sold. They owe friends, family members and banks money. There are no more assets but the drugs or alcohol have to be obtained, however that may be.

At this point, many people will begin committing crimes or doing things which are typically fround upon, that most other people wouldn’t do. Selling or manufacturing drugs is a common one.

Burglary, robbery, identity theft, credit card theft, car thefts, shoplifting and prostitution are also common. An employee may steal money or items from the place of business and then are pawned or sold. Someone with access to cash may embezzle from a company.

Many addicts will also steal items from the homes of family or friends, even if that may be from someone who is vulnerable because of their age, health problems or reduced mental capacity.

When a person is addicted to prescription drugs, the crimes may be a little different. They may visit multiple doctors to get prescriptions for pills or may forge or alter prescriptions in order to get more medication or at a stronger dose than would otherwise be prescribed.

In recent years, there have been more safeguards put in place in most doctors surgeries, hospitals and pharmacies so that these attempts are less likely to succeed and helps identify those who may have developed an addiction.

Of course, there is also driving while drunk or high. Also, some drugs change a person’s personality or level of consciousness which makes them more paranoid, aggressive or sleepy, which can result in assaults or domestic violence charges.

And unfortunately, some drugs so deplete a person’s sense of self-respect so that he or she will turn to prostitution or any degraded activity that will score them their next hit or drink.


4. An Addict Will Try To Constantly Shift The Blame From Themselves Onto Something Or Someone Else

addict pointing finger at another

Irresponsibility is the name of the game for an addict. Whereas this person may have lived their prior life as a highly responsible individual, drug and alcohol addiction steals that quality away.

Whatever happens is never their own fault. If they get fired from a job, it’s the boss’s fault, the addict was unfairly targeted. If they get in a car accident, it was totally someone else’s fault. If they fail at some activity, those close to them will be blamed.

Family will appeal to them to please care for the children and his spouse, please get another job, please stop using these drugs or alcohol and so on.

Even if they want to, the addiction is more powerful than they are and they will be drawn to their drug dealer, their drug or drinking friends and whatever means they must employ to keep the drugs and alcohol coming. What really has to happen is that they must be ready to change and willing to be rehabilitated or willing to attend and comply with their local drug and alcohol service to the point of having more power than the drugs and alcohol.


5. An Addict Could Become Abusive

It’s tragic that an addict’s blame can even take a violent and abusive form. With the delusional thinking common to most addicts, they can perceive those around them as being threatening, dangerous or malicious. As they shift the blame, they may physically, mentally or emotionally attack those they blame.

The spouse of an addict can bear the brunt of both the blame and the abuse. It’s hard to do anything right. He or she is not supportive. Mental and emotional abuse may be directed at the spouse to completely shut down any ability to effectively fight the real problem—the addiction. It’s very common for spouses and significant others to be browbeaten into submission, often for years.

Of course, physical violence is a very real possibility, especially toward spouses, children, elderly parents—particularly those people who can’t fight back.

It doesn’t matter what drug a person is addicted to—the need to get and use the drugs and alcohol is a compulsion. If it were not bigger and more powerful at this moment than their own will, they would not be addicted, they would stop using drugs and alcohol and begin to fix their life.

This isn’t always the case, but it’s something that you must be aware of and correct as soon as it occurs (if it occurs).

Remember also, that there is more than one form of abuse. Read the diagram below to find out more.

You can help and support for abuse on our help and support page here. If you feel your life is in immediate danger, call 999 or the number for the emergency services in your country straight away.


However, There Is Hope

But out of this whole tragic, chaotic situation, there is a ray of hope!

Rehabilitation and recovery are possible. When a person goes through an effective rehabilitation program and overcomes his (or hers) need for drugs or alcohol, it is possible to see that bright, caring and responsible person come back again. It’s possible to recover one’s interest in life and to lose the continuous craving for drugs.

Happy young people walking in a wood

If you are an addict or you live with one, it’s important that they access treatment as early in their “using/drinking lifestyle” as possible as the earlier they access treatment, the less damage will be done and the easier it’ll be to turn their life around. That isn’t to say that those who have been using or drinking for decades can’t change their life around, they can, it’s just easier the earlier they access help, support and treatment.

Also, if you are living with an addict, looking after yourself is also important. If you contact your nearest drug and alcohol service, you too can get help and support for yourself, as someone living with an addict. If their treatment and your support can run concurrently, it is easier but not essential.


Where Can I Get Help & Support?

On our help and support page, you will find a vast array of contact information for charities, groups and organisations who can help. You can visit our help and support page by clicking here.

Contacting your nearest drug and alcohol service can also offer you local help, support, help initiatives and more for both addicts and those around them. If you don’t know where your nearest drug and alcohol service is, you can find your nearest on our help and support page by clicking on the link above.


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Published by Drink ’n’ Drugs

Providing useful, relevant, up to date information and support for those suffering from active addiction or those who are in recovery.

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